The ‘flying squad’ has been policing the skies above Ilfracombe this week during a trial to see if birds of prey can control the seagull menace.

Representatives from two companies were in the town and harbour area on separate days flying falcons and Harris hawks to show how they could deter nuisance gulls from congregating where they were not wanted.

The trial sessions were free and organised by harbour master Georgina Carlo-Paat following discussions at a Harbour Forum meeting.

Georgina had begun looking into the issue after the Collingdale Guest House emailed her to ask what the council would be doing about the seagull problem.

Birds of prey have hit the headlines after being used in several towns around the country in a bid to keep the seagulls down.

There's a new sheriff in town: a harris hawk called Jack keeps a beady eye out for miscreant seagulls in Ilfracombe during a falconry trial. Picture: Bert GearThere's a new sheriff in town: a harris hawk called Jack keeps a beady eye out for miscreant seagulls in Ilfracombe during a falconry trial. Picture: Bert Gear

They do not attack or injure the gulls, but their presence acts as a deterrent and also prevents the gulls from nesting in towns during nesting season.

Georgina said the cost of such a programme for Ilfracombe for a year could be up to £18,000, but it was well within the realms of possibility if the community, businesses and councils came together to support the scheme.

She told the Gazette: “I wanted the two days for people top have the opportunity to come down and see this.

“On Wednesday the first Harris hawk was flown and there were 50 gulls all over Lantern Hill. On Thursday we went to fly the other and we could only see two.

“We would show the presence of these predators on the harbour, seafront and the High Street and the gulls are going to learn that they don’t own the town any more.

“The next step is to get the public behind it and show there’s a vested interest before we can get people around the table and see where the money is coming from.”

If it happened, she said alongside the scheme there would be an education programme to try and convince people not to feed the seagulls.

She added: “We want to invest in this town, but why build something new and then see it covered in seagull guano?”